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Helpful Tips: How to Read Texts

The following tips are designed to help you read texts that are unfamiliar to you. For your convenience there’s one list for reading scripture, and one for reading non-scriptural texts. If you have any questions when you are reading texts associated with Wilmette Institute courses, please post them in the course forums or submit them to your faculty mentor.

Reading Scripture

1. Choose an environment that will be conducive to study and comprehension.

2. Each time you read or study, begin by reading what you have already read. 

3. Identify the main idea(s).

Give a title to each paragraph or identifiable subsection of the text. (Refer to the letters in The World Order of Bahá’u’lláh by Shoghi Effendi to see examples of how Horace Holley did this with subsections.)

4. Focus on the purposes for which the text was revealed.

What are the fundamental principles and truths you can identify in the text? Make a note of these passages for easy referral.

5. Be aware of your reactions as you read.

Identify metaphors, images, symbols, allusions, insights, words, and ideas found in the text. If you have questions about a certain part of the text, place a question mark next to it.

6. Read slowly.**

7. Read for the inner meaning rather than the words themselves.**

8. Read widely and look carefully for common themes and teachings.**

9. Read to understand the holy books with your heart as well as your mind.**

10. List on a separate sheet of paper questions that occur to you while reading. Note the paragraph and/or page number. 

11. Mark or write on cards passages you would like to memorize later. 

12. Make notes in the margins, and/or underline key passages.

13. Feel free to post questions in the course forums.

**  Tips 6 through 9 are from David Langness, How to Read the Baha’i Writings, Part 2 (Baha’i 101 Series, BahaiTeachings.org) published May 31, 2015.

Note: Not all suggestions will be useful for you, or for all the texts you read. Do what is most comfortable/useful for you.


Reading non-scriptural texts

1. Choose an environment that will be conducive to study and comprehension.

2. Preview the text first to get a sense of the key points.

Briefly look over the table of contents, index, section headings, sidebars, charts, graphs, and photos.

3. Identify the main idea(s) in each paragraph or subsection of the text.

4. If there is a section you have a question about, write a small question mark next to it.

5. List on a separate sheet of paper questions that occur to you while reading. Note the paragraph and/or page number. 

6. Make notes in the margins, and/or underline key passages.

7. Keep a dictionary on hand to look up unfamiliar words.

8. Be aware of your reactions as you read.

Note insights, analogies, words, and ideas that are familiar to you.

9. As you read, link new ideas with existing ones in meaningful ways.

What thoughts do you have about what you are reading? How does it link to your previous knowledge and understanding? How can this new knowledge be used in new tasks? How can it be transferred to new situations? How does it add to, modify, or reorganize existing attitudes, knowledge, and skills?

10. Mark or write on cards passages you would like to memorize later.

11. Feel free to post questions in the course forums.

Note: Not all suggestions will be useful for you, or for all the texts you read. Do what is most comfortable/useful for you.

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